The Dragons of Ice and Snow (10 page)

BOOK: The Dragons of Ice and Snow
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watched the paladin move to stand next to a large window and stare
out into the night. The glass was long gone from the opening and a
breeze blew her long dark hair back off of her face.

you, my friend, but no. I do not need to ask my people to know that
they would not leave. Moscow is our home. I know we look battered and
broken, but we are not. We have supplies, food, everything we need in
caches all over the city. This,” she gestured back toward the
fire, “this is just a temporary camp. My people need to rest up
from the attack and from my healing. It took much out of them. In a
day or two, we will head back to our permanent base, which is buried
deep and very secure.”


was a little surprised by the paladin's wish to stay in such a
dangerous place. But it's their home, he thought. And to them, maybe
it's not as bad as you might think.


it's your choice.”

is indeed. Thank you for calling me, Simon. I was so worried that
you'd come to harm. It is good to know you survived.”

feel the same, Liliana. I wonder, if it's all right with you, if I
could call back in a week or two. You know, just to see how you're
all doing?”

actually managed a gentle laugh.

was going to suggest that. Call me in about two weeks. I may even
have your spell-book for you. In any case, I'd like you to keep in
regular contact. We Changlings are few and far between, and getting
fewer by the day. If and when you decide to move against the primal
white dragon, I want to be there. That monster owes more than its
death can possibly repay.”

voice was suddenly savage and Simon shivered at its deadly tone.

sounds good. All the best, my friend. I know you know your city best,
but please, keep your eyes up and your head down.”

that, you may be sure. Good bye, sir wizard.”

bye, lady paladin. And good luck.”

nodded and smiled and Simon waved his hand across the mirror to
cancel the spell.

set it down on the desk, relaxed into his chair and let out a long,
tired breath.

that was productive,” Aeris said as he bobbed in the air near
the mirror.

was, for sure. I'm so relieved that she's okay. And that most of her
people are too.”

closed his eyes and rubbed them with his fingertips.

I'm happy that they didn't betray us. Heather's treachery was hard to
take. I hope we never have to face more like it again.”

the dark gods, I wouldn't count on that, my dear wizard. They are
masters of lies and deceit. A weak person who is offered power can
make an easy recruit for them, now that the world had changed.”


stood up, stretched and walked over to the window on the far side of
the room. He opened it, hissing slightly as a chilly, early spring
breeze blew past him.

he stood there and just breathed in the cold clean air and watched
the sunlight play on the barren treetops of the forest around his

can see some buds already, he thought with delight. I think it's
going to be an early spring. Good. After last winter, it would be

ran his fingers through his hair and took in a last breath. A faint
smell of earth, and the sweetish scent of rotting leaves pinched his
nose and he sighed with pleasure.

wouldn't be encouraged by the awakening of nature after a long
winter's sleep?

closed the window and went back to his desk. Time to lock that Gate
spell into my memory forever, he thought. I won't be trapped again by
my own stupidity.

make promises you can't keep, a little voice of self-doubt whispered
from deep inside of him, sounding a bit like Aeris.

told it what to do with itself, sat down and opened his spell-book.


did indeed come early that year and Simon and the elementals, mostly
Kronk, began to prepare the garden for planting.

dug up the furrows, picked out the rocks that every year seemed to
sneak into the dirt just where they wanted to plant seeds, and then
waited for the days to warm and the earth to soften up enough to
begin their planting in earnest.

did contribute one thing to the exercise. On his own, he traveled to
the late Heather's deserted cottage and returned to report that her
spices and herbs were growing wild on their own and would be
available to harvest later in the year.

Aeris,” Simon had told him. “Well done.”

air elemental had grinned widely, looking smugly at Kronk who
glowered back at him.

grin had disappeared when the wizard added, “Make sure you
don't wait too long to harvest them when they're ready. Maybe check
on them once a week or so, just to be sure.”

turned away so that Aeris didn't see his smile. Kronk, on the other
hand, had burst out laughing and the air elemental had pouted for the
rest of the day.

Things began to move more
quickly once Simon had finished with his garden.

He had battered the Gate
spell into his memory to the point where he woke up in the mornings
occasionally mumbling the incantation. He had also managed to
permanently keep Fireball, Lightning and Stone Skin locked in his
mind as well.

None of these were the
most powerful of spells, but they would help in an emergency.

He was sitting in his
study one bright morning, about the middle of April or so, when Kronk
tip-tapped into the room dragging something behind him.

Simon looked up from some
notes he was going over. He'd had some success with spell
combinations lately. None were as powerful as the ones he'd lost in
the spell-book gifted by the gods, but they were encouraging.
Unfortunately, Liliana had yet to find the book and he had to make do
with whatever he could invent on his own.

What's that you've
got?” he asked Kronk. Whatever it was was scraping loudly on
the pine floor.

The little earthen moved
around the desk and dropped the object at Simon's feet. He reached
down and picked it up and his breath caught in his throat.

It was a staff.

The wizard put the length
of wood down across his desk and stared at it in wonder. Kronk jumped
up and stood next to it, watching him anxiously.

The little guy had found a
six foot branch, ash perhaps; Simon wasn't an expert on the many
different kinds of trees. But the wood was pale, almost white in

Kronk had rubbed it down
until it was smooth and gleaming and had sealed it with some sort of
clear resin. And then he had capped it, top and bottom, with a
yellowish metal.

Bronze, Simon thought. The
same metal that had spiraled up the length of Bene-Dunn-Gal.

Simon picked it up in both
hands and held it cross-ways as he felt its weight and the smoothness
of its surface.

Kronk, it's
beautiful!” he exclaimed finally, deeply touched by the little
guy's thoughtfulness. “Thank you so much for this. I love it.”

The earthen's smile would
have stretched from ear to ear, if he'd had ears, and he bowed.

It was nothing,
master. But I am so pleased that you find it acceptable.”

Simon stood up and moved to the center of the room. He rested the end
of the staff on the floor and leaned against it. There was just
enough flex in the wood, but not so much that it felt flimsy. He
tapped it twice on the floor and the bronze chimed cheerfully from
the butt end.

Wonderful, my
friend. Truly wonderful.”

He sat down at his desk
again and leaned the staff against it.

I didn't realize
that I'd missed having one of these so much. It may not be
Bene-Dunn-Gal, but it is awesome just the same.”

Kronk was almost glowing
with delight at Simon's praise, but now he gestured at the staff,
looking more serious.

It is not just for
show or for leaning against, master. In the old days, wizards
channeled their magic through their staves. Your old staff was unique
because you could inscribe it with spells, but all staves were used
to focus magic.”

Simon was fascinated by
the idea.

Really? That's what
they were used for?”

Exactly, master,”
Kronk asserted, nodding vigorously. “I saw it many times.”

The wizard stared at the
staff dubiously.

But how? How was it

That I do not know,
master,” the little guy said, sounding a little embarrassed.
Then he smiled and winked. “But I believe we both know someone
who probably does.”

We do?” Simon
sat up alertly. “Who do you...”

He stopped speaking and
then grinned.


Exactly, master.
The air elementals know more about magic than any of us. He may very
well have a clue on how it was done.”

The wizard stood up again
and turned to look out the window behind his desk. Beyond the wall
surrounding the tower, the brown grass of the field led to the
forest. A few green sprouts were struggling to force their way into
the bright spring day. There was nothing moving.

He crossed the room to the
other window and opened it. The sound of birds busily singing and
nest building made him smile as he leaned out to look around. Except
for the steady pacing along the wall of one of the guarding
elementals, he saw no sign of Aeris.

Any idea where he
is?” he asked Kronk as he turned back and leaned against the

No master. He flew
off this morning, somewhere, and I haven't seen him since.”

Simon sat down at his

He hates when I do
this,” he said with a bit of a wince.

He leaned back and stared
at the middle of the desk. Kronk moved a few paces to the right.

Aeris, I need you!”
Simon said forcefully and then winced, knowing what was coming.

There was a bright flash,
a loud clap of sound that echoed through the study and a sudden smell
of ozone that pinched the nostrils. And then the air elemental was
floating above the desk, staring at him and looking disgruntled.

Was that really
necessary?” he asked sharply, putting his hands on his hips.
“Are you under attack? “

No, not right now,

Have you fallen and
broken something? Is the tower about to collapse beneath you? Have
you contracted the plague?”

Simon sighed loudly. He
knew this would be the reaction.

No, no and no. Stop
complaining, would you? Why are you so cranky? Were you doing
something so incredibly important that my calling you back ruined it,
whatever it was?”

Aeris bobbed up and down
and continued to glare at Simon for another minute. And then he
slowly let his arms drop and shrugged.

Not really. I was
actually conversing with the river sprite up north. You remember? The
water elemental you summoned when you conquered the primal black

Simon leaned forward,
resting his hands on the desk.

Aquamastis? Really?
You talk to it?”

Occasionally, when
I'm passing near the river. And it's a he, not an it. Anyway, I just
wanted to know if there had been any sign of unusual activity along
the banks of the river he's claimed for his own.” He shrugged
again. “He says not.”

Huh. I didn't know
you did that, or that an elemental that powerful would speak to you,
or anyone else for that matter.”

Oh he's quite
polite, when you approach him with respect,” Aeris said with a
little smile. “Takes a long time to say anything now though,
his essence is spread out along hundreds of miles of water. Anyway,
that's where I was. Hopefully he won't be insulted by my disappearing
in the middle of our conversation.”

You think he will?”
Simon asked with some concern.

Probably not. It
takes a lot of provocation to anger a being that immense. At any
rate, he still feels he owes you for the gift of the river, and since
I am your associate, his good will extends to me as well. That's
primarily why he deigns to speak to me on occasion.”

Good,” the
wizard said with relief. “I definitely don't want to anger
something that powerful. Now, if you're quite over your snit,”
he gestured at the staff, “I wanted to ask you about this.”

BOOK: The Dragons of Ice and Snow
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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